Extremists claim great legislative gains
Idaho elections made the national news this week with Gov. Brad Little’s defeat of Trump-endorsed Janice McGeachin. That had to encourage supporters of several Republican governors who’ve crossed Trump. After all, Idahoans voted 62% for Trump and only 32% for McGeachin. (Idaho was one of the first 10 states to hold a primary; others are scheduled for Tuesdays through Sept. 13.)
The moderate/extremist split in the Republican party has made this primary election a record-setting one for Idaho. This cycle 50,000 donors have given nearly $24 million to candidates and $14 million to PACS. Nearly 276,000 Idahoans voted in the eight-way contest for the Republican gubernatorial noimination.
And the extremists seemed to be the most energetic, organized and well-funded faction this spring.
In April alone, Citizens Alliance of Idaho, the PAC of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, donated to 36 candidates. All were to have taken a 10-point pledge which included upholding “medical freedom” (no mandates for masks or vaccines), “election integrity” (stricter voter ID and an end to same-day registration), and “expanding education freedom” (giving money to the parents, not the schools).
So understandably, many voters–and the media–think that Idaho has dodged a bullet by keeping most state offices in moderate Republican hands.
But Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation regards this year’s results as great (https://idahofreedom.org/).
Yes, extremists (he calls them ‘conservatives’) lost all but the attorney general’s position in the top-of-the-ticket races, but they only had one position before–lieutenant governor. And the attorney general isn’t limited to making headlines; that position has real power.
Yes, extremists lost some major supporters in the Idaho House, but they gained nearly as many. That leaves them the dominant power there.
And, according to Hoffman, the extremist Senate presence has risen from two members to 12. That is a huge number for that small body. Assuming Democrats hold their current seven seats, there would be only 16 moderates.
Hoffman predicts extremists will have an equal voice in major committees and might succeed in cutting the “bloated Medicaid budget.” In short, the Senate would be like the House where only Democratic votes made it possible to fund 22 budget bills.
Have the extremists really gained 12 seats? Eight of the 22 Republican senators facing no Democratic opposition in November have received support from IFF or similar organizations. Two more–Tammy Nichols (Middleton) and Chris Trakel (Caldwell)--will face Democratic opponents this fall.
So extremists in the new Senate will number at least eight–and possibly more.
So, how did the moderate Republican leadership react to being pushed close to the sidelines?
They held a unity rally to urge Republicans to vote for any ‘R’ on the November ballot. Lt. Gov candidate Scott Bedke made the following rallying cry (Idaho Capital Sun, May 19).
“If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times…’Please do not let our state change. Don’t let all of this new growth change who we are. I don’t want to wake up five years from now and wonder where our Idaho went.’
“The campaign against the Democrats starts today.”
Somehow growth is threatening ‘our Idaho’ and the solution is to attack Democrats? Don’t Republicans claim credit for the growth? And aren’t the extremists out to make changes?
Perhaps Bedke was thinking primarily of his own race. He faces a strong Democratic challenger this fall–Terri Pickens Manweiler, a charismatic Boise attorney known for her pro bono work for women and children.
But if Republicans want to prevent Idaho from becoming a pariah to businesses, it’s their turn to cross over and support the few Democrats in position to defeat extremists.